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May 01, 2014

China, Russia to Hold Naval Drills in East China Sea

by VOA News

China says it will hold joint naval exercises with Russia later this month in the East China Sea, where Beijing is involved in a territorial dispute with Japan.

A statement by China's Defense Ministry said the "regular exercises" would begin in late May off the coast of Shanghai, well north of the disputed area.

China and Japan have a longstanding quarrel over a series of uninhabited islands that are surrounded by vast natural resources and strategic shipping lanes.

The dispute worsened in 2012 after Japan purchased some of the islands. China responded by increasing patrols, challenging Tokyo's control of the area.

China also declared an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea, but Japan and the U.S. have ignored Beijing's demands that all foreign aircraft identify themselves before entering the zone.

President Barack Obama last week visited Tokyo, where he explicitly stated that Washington is obliged by treaty to defend Japan in the event the islands are attacked.

Beijing criticized the statement, saying the White House is encouraging Japan to provoke China and is trying to contain Beijing by developing closer military ties with Asian countries.

China, meanwhile, has relatively few close allies in the region. One of its main friends with significant military capabilities is Russia, which has held regular defense drills with China in recent years.

Beijing's Defense Ministry on Thursday described the upcoming naval exercise as regular, noting that it held similar drills last year off Russia's far east coast.